Thursday, 31 May 2012

TGO Challenge 2012 - Not Even Close

Well I've been back home more than two weeks and still haven't written this up, so here goes (deep breath)...

Having pulled out of the 2011 Challenge at the last minute because of shin problems, it was a relief to get on the train for Edinburgh.  At Newcastle I'd picked up another Challenger, Harry James, and by Inverness, there was a half a train full of them.

Day 1: Strathcarron to Pait Lodge

I left the hotel on the bong of 9am and walked with Mike Knipe for the first half mile until he turned off north. Far be it from me to tell him Montrose was to the east.

So this was it. It was raining but the weather was coming from behind, the track ahead looked long, I was mildly hungover, on my own and there was nothing to distract me from noticing every twinge in my legs. Was I really up to this? I'd planned this route 2 years ago, it had been vetted twice, but did I actually want to walk across Scotland any more? I could see a few other Challengers ahead of me and the gap increasing. I could walk Scottish hill tracks without having to commit to two weeks of day on day backpacking. Oh nagging self doubt be gone!

Wilderness out of Strathcarron
Carl and an unknown rucksack in the bothy at Bedroig Lodge

I stopped at Bendroig Lodge for lunch and reached the east end of Loch Calavie and my proposed camp about 2pm. It seemed a bit early to stop and it didn't look very inviting place to put up a tent, let alone lie in it for 15-16 hrs. So it was on to Pait Lodge.

A few people had told me it was quite hard going as the path on the map doesn't exist (and they were right - it was and it doesn't). Anyway, it had to be done sooner or later. I caught up with the 3 Scots (whose names I've forgotten but could find out if I looked) when the track ran out and we floundered around in the morass with occasional glimpses of Carl Mynot a mile or so in front. I was wishing I could teleport to where he was, though when I got to where he was, I was wishing I could teleport to anywhere else but there. The trees around Pait Lodge seemed within reach but having lost height I'd got myself in a whole mess of bog and peat haggs and brown sticky porridgy stuff and was about to burst into tears like a big girl, then decided that would just make the ground wetter. So instead I crawled on hands and knees out of a big hole I'd dropped into, reached the bridge and then spent 5 minutes trying to open the gate into the grounds of Pait Lodge. Mike had said something the night before about how to do this but I hadn't listened attentively enough.


Rainbow over Pait Lodge

And then a bit more crashing and splashing and splodging and cursing and I came across Carl lying spread-eagled on a rock, looking for all the world as if he had been spread out for any passing eagle. And I said, there s'posed to be a place just up here to camp and he said let's go and off he went, like someone trying to escape from a predatory eagle. And we found a handy, dandy place to camp by a weee burrrrnn and I collapsed in my tent and it was an hour before I had enough energy to do the blowy up thing with the NeoAir and strike a match over the pocket rocket.


Camp by Allt Riabhachain above Pait Lodge

And then Carl spotted a brace of Golden Eagle circling above the snow clad hills - or they may actually have been Osprey, cos there a few of those round there. Anyway, it was dead impressive and gave us a wild and remote feeling and there was only another 154 miles to walk. And then I slept for a long time

More to follow (eventually)...